When Pope Benedict issued his Motu Proprio last July, some were excited and saw it as the possible beginning of a new New Springtime, and others sniffed and sneered as is their wont about nostalgia and fringe groups, clucking all the while that this really wasn’t that important because such a small minority would go for this business (which begs the question, if it’s such a tiny blip on the radar, why even bother taking one minute of your life to sniff and sneer?).
Six months later, I think some are surprised. Even more conservative/Traditionalist naysayers are a bit flummoxed at what they have seen. It’s not that the Extraordinary Form is flooding the market, but there is definitely growth, not only in numbers – slow but steady – but in apparent openness. Yes, some doors in many dioceses and parishes remain firmly shut, but there is definitely a subtle shift. Even three years ago, I don’t think many with strong interests in matters liturgical could have predicted that the pervasive stigma attached to the 1962 Missal would be dissolving, slowly but surely, that issues like chant and ad orientem would be matters of serious discussion and interest, sans obligatory “Pre-Vatican II Dark Ages” swipes.
But barriers remain – barriers to understanding, most importantly – and I think these barriers should be confronted forthrightly and honestly from both “sides,” and in utmost charity. The ideological “divisions” within the Catholic Church are a terrible scandal, they impede our response to Jesus’ missional call and they drain energy. But they’re real. And no, the Church has never been, in reality, on the ground, an entity marked by mass mutual conformity or homogeneity – nor should it be – the divisions within the American and European Church, at least, on matters of liturgy and ecclesiology are profound.
I’d like to invite some comment on a particular, very specific question to show how this works and to see if it can be overcome at some level. Bear with me.
When you read liturgical blogs – which I do, daily – one of the things that you often find are photographs of Masses which evoke, in readers, responses marked by appreciation for the beauty of what is going on in the photograph. The same photograph, viewed by others, would provoke another, different responses – responses that might include puzzlement as to what is going on, relief that it doesn’t go on much anymore, a reaction to perceived elitism, obscurantism and misogyny.
One viewer looks at the photograph and sees a perfect replication of what Christ intended.
The other looks at it and sees a violation of what Christ surely intended.
And remember – both viewers are Catholic.
Here’s such a photograph. Commenters, if you please:
In a charitable, clear manner, explain what you see here. What gratifies you about the action in the photograph. What bothers you. Those who see it as beautiful, explain why and its deeper relation to your Catholic faith. Those who are bothered by it or mystified by it, explain why.